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The Story of Puranjana

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

Prachinabarhi believed that performing sacrifices was the path to heaven, but the sage Narada desired to redirect him towards God. To achieve this, Narada told Prachinabarhi the story of Puranjana. A king named Puranjana, who was in search of a city to settle in, became friends with an unknown man. After searching for some time, he found a magnificent city at the foothills of the Himalayas with everything he wanted, and he was content. While wandering around the garden, he fell in love with a beautiful young woman attended by ten women, each commanding eleven soldiers, and a serpent with five heads. He married her, but her true identity remained unknown.

Puranjana and his wife lived blissfully in the city with nine gates, and he dutifully obeyed her every whim. He was deeply devoted to her and shared in her joys and sorrows. His love for her consumed his thoughts and she became the center of his world. Together, they had many children over the years.

After returning from hunting with a great number of animals killed for sport, Puranjana found his wife hurt and angry. She refused to speak to him, and it took many sweet words from Puranjana to console her. Happiness is not everlasting. Despite being lost in worldly pleasures and deceived by attachment, Puranjana's city was attacked by Chandavega, a gandharva king, with his 360 companions and their wives, leading to the gradual destruction of the city. After years of conflict, the competent commander of the city grew weak and fatigued. It was then that Bhaya, a foreign king, arrived with his army and attacked the city. Puranjana was captured and eventually killed by the same animals he had earlier sacrificed and who had now been reborn.

Because of King Puranjana's excessive attachment to women, he was reborn as a woman, specifically the daughter of the king of Vidarbha. The woman was then married to Malayadhvaja, the king of the Pandya territory, and her past life as King Puranjana was forgotten. Over the course of many years, Malayadhvaja and his wife had many children and grandchildren. Eventually, the king decided to divide his kingdom among his sons and retire to Kulachala (Tirupati) to spend his time in worship of the Lord. His wife, the princess of Vidarbha, also renounced everything and left with her husband to serve him.

After practicing meditation and austerities, King Malayadhvaja passed away while in a state of meditation. At the time, it was customary for the queen to immolate herself on her husband's funeral pyre. The wood was gathered, and the pyre was prepared. As the queen was about to climb onto the pyre, a Brahmin arrived and spoke to her, asking who she was and for whom she was grieving. He reminded her that he was her friend and travel companion who she had forgotten in her pursuit of sensual pleasures.

King Prachinabarhi comprehended the significance of the story of King Puranjana and requested Narada to clarify it to him. Narada elucidated, "Puranjana symbolizes the jiva or human being, and his companion, the brahmin, is Ishvara or the Lord. The woman who controlled Puranjana is buddhi or intellect. The nine-gated city of Puranjana signifies the body with its two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, a mouth, and two orifices. Jiva experiences the sense objects with the help of buddhi. Prana, the vital energy with its five functions, is the five-headed serpent. The 360 gandharvas and gandharvis represent the days and nights of the year, and Chandavega, the gandharva king, personifies time, which destroys everything. Bhaya, the foreign king, is death."

Narada continued: "King Malayadhvaja, the husband of the princess of Vidarbha, represents the embodied soul who has become detached from worldly pleasures and has dedicated his life to the worship of the Lord. His wife, who renounced everything to serve her husband, represents the purified intellect. When Malayadhvaja passed away, the queen was about to immolate herself on his funeral pyre as was the custom in those days, but she was stopped by her friend, the brahmin, who reminded her of her true identity and purpose in life.

The story of King Puranjana illustrates the human condition and the cycle of birth and death. The ultimate goal of life is to awaken from the dream of delusion and realize our true nature as the supreme Self. This can be achieved through the purification of the intellect and the practice of detachment from worldly pleasures. Only then can we attain liberation from the cycle of birth and death and find everlasting happiness and peace."

This passage is a message from Narada to King Prachinabarhi, advising him to give up attachment, violence, and the practice of killing animals in sacrifices. Narada suggests dedicating one's work to God and pursuing true learning, which is done to honour and love God. He emphasizes that Sri Hari, or God, is the only rock on which man can build his home, and that the path of God is the best. Narada encourages the king to recognize God as his closest and innermost friend, and to understand that true learning comes from this recognition.

Read the story of Jada Bharata and the baby deer here at

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